by Shane Scott
This year the congregation where I preach has chosen as its theme, Eager to Maintain the Unity of the Spirit. Ephesians (from which the wording of the theme is drawn) is all about God’s plan to unite all things in Christ. But there are other books of the Bible that focus on unity as well, especially the book of Philippians.
I was taught that the key term in Philippians is joy, and Philippians indeed says a lot about rejoicing in the Lord. But Philippians is also about unity – in fact, unity is one of the sources of joy. “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
“Full accord” – “living in harmony” as God’s Word translation puts it – is very difficult. It is much easier to sing a solo than it is to blend into an ensemble. But of course, when voices mingle together to create beautiful harmony, the end result is much more satisfying than an isolated voice. So how do we live in harmony with each other?
- Sing the same tune. In the case of a quartet or a chorus, the ensemble can only harmonize when everyone is on the same page of music. And for Christians to be in accord, we must also sing the same song, the gospel.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
- Learn to blend with others. In music, it is not enough for each part to sing in tune. For a chord to really work, each part must be balanced properly. In fact, sometimes you can sing the right note, but be so out of balance you ruin the chord. In the same way, a Christian can have really good ideas about something but be so overbearing that he destroys the harmony of the group.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
- Follow the leader. In a quartet the harmony parts follow the lead or melody singer. In a chorus the group follows the director. Or at least, they are supposed to! Otherwise, each singer just does her own thing, and the result is chaos, not harmony. For the child of God to live in harmony, he must follow the self-giving model of Jesus.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7).
- Start together and finish together. I’ve been in some performances where it felt like all we managed to do was start and finish the song together! But starting well and finishing well as a group is truly vital to a successful performance. And as Christians, remembering our common salvation and striving for the same destination will keep us together.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
The figurine you see pictured above was a gift to me from a dear sister in our congregation, Sylvia Chapman. She gave me this beautiful Hummel piece for my birthday. As she handed me the bag that contained it, she simply said, “Be careful – it’s fragile.” That’s true of spiritual harmony as well. It is fragile, and deserves our careful handling. But singing the same tune, learning how to blend, following the Leader, and starting and finishing together, will keep us in spiritual harmony.